The not so "Happy Frog"

Wanting to touch on why my former garden center was closing down I realized that there are numerous reasons. There are too many for one post so lets look at it over a series of posts. I think there are lessons here for anyone contemplating opening or buying a garden center, so I will post these at my “The Art of Running a Garden Center” site also.

While the main reason the store is closing is due to current events and ownership, the seeds of destruction we’re planted by the former owners, my ex-partners. It started when we began our partnership! This now goes back about 11 years.

When we were invited to buy into ownership of the business we thought it would be vital to have a partnership agreement. I was worried about what would happen if we had a falling out later. Our soon to be partners didn’t want to bother with one. We were excited about being owners of a happening place and jumped in with nothing more than a handshake. Thus the seed’s of the eventual downfall of the garden center were planted at a time of great optimism and profitability. Who would have known?

There may come a time when you have an opportunity to partner up with someone in a business venture. If you really feel this is the only way to proceed then you MUST have a partnership agreement. A partnership agreement spells out who is in charge of what, and if the partnership doesn’t work, the agreement spells out how to dissolve the partnership in a somewhat graceful way. My advice, the only partnership you ever want to enter into is with your life mate. Stay away from business partnerships.

My former partner’s had quite the egos and felt they were the controlling partners in the business. I don’t remember us discussing that but they started telling us what to do. Without an agreement the partnership is considered a general partnership with 50/50 ownership. There is no controlling partner. While business was growing at a rapid pace the problems we're few , but soon as the growth wasn’t fast enough for our partners the disagreements on how to run the business got worse and worse.

So what do you do? We just wanted to get out of what had turned a fun job into a nightmare. Because our partners weren’t about to sell to us, and they refused to buy our half, we we're in a quandry. <p this="" class="We’ll to make a long story short there is a way to end a partnership where one partner want’s to sell and the other doesn’t. You have to hire an attorney and start a dissolution of partnership. The court will move in, sell off the assets, pay the bills and anything left is split between the partners. My partners couldn’t believe we could do this as they never got it in their heads that we were equal partners. All this trouble because of their insistence that a partnership agreement was not needed, and my inability to demand one.

Instead of us owning the Auburn store and continuing the business while our partners could run the other store, they ended up buying us out. Now they had to run both stores! The people who really cared about the business are gone and the people who wanted out are stuck running it.

The real problem for our now ex-partners is that they had no one to help run the Auburn store. Through some very poor employee relations they had chased most of the workers away, but that's for our another discussion.

We went over to see the old store just last week. Plants we're untended and dying and we found out they were moving everything up to the Grass Valley store and basically abandoning the site. The picture of the sign shows a weeping Japanese maple that we planted year
s ago, brown and dead! The landlord now has to rent the land, and I doubt a nursery is in the plans.

While the loss of the nursery for the community is sad, the ultimate results are we now have a great garden center and are as happy as we have ever been! So we will chaulk it up to a hard lesson learned.